BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League criticized Argentina’s president for evoking classic anti-Semitic stereotypes linking Jews to the cause of Argentina’s financial challenges.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner recommended in a visit last week to an elementary school in the shanty town of Lugano that the students read “The Merchant of Venice,” with its anti-Semitic portrayal of a vengeful Jewish moneylender, to understand Argentina’s economic troubles. Following the visit, the president continued to tweet the recommendation, appearing to try to soften her stance by confirming in a tweet that Shakespeare is performed by Israeli theater companies.
Kirchner called on the students to read the play to understand vulture funds, which are seeking to collect on Argentina’s national debt, in arrears since 2001.
She repeated the recommendation on Twitter to her more than 3.8 million followers and added in another tweet: “No, don’t laugh. Usury and the bloodsuckers were immortalized by the best literature for centuries.”
Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, in a statement this week repudiated Kirshner’s statements.
“‘The Merchant of Venice’ — with its nefarious character Shylock — reinforces stereotypes of Jews and presents them as money-hungry, conniving and cruel, and by suggesting students to study this play, she is sending a message to Argentina’s youth that Jews are somehow connected to the economic woes of her country,” Foxman said. “We stand with the Jewish community of Argentina in repudiation of the President’s statements and her repeated implications of Jewish involvement in this issue,” Foxman said.
The Argentine Jewish political umbrella DAIA also decried the president’s recommendation in a statement issued the day after her July 2 school visit.
On Monday, Kirchner posted on Twitter that Israel’s national theater company, Habima, performs “The Merchant of Venice,” citing an invitation to one of its performances of the play in Spain in 2013.
“The piece? “The Merchant of Venice.” The company producing? Habima, Israel’s national theater,” she tweeted.
And in another tweet, Kirshner wrote: “Who’s inviting? The Israeli Embassy in Spain. Notably, in Israel they like good literature and the best theater.” Finally, she wrote: “Goodness. Someone deserves the donkey’s head, as Shakespeare did in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Kirchner has not apologized for her remarks.
It is not the first time that the Argentine president has linked the country’s national debt to global Jewish leaders.